See It or Free It: 'Fargo'

As someone who is not a huge fan of the Coen Brother’s classic film, expectations for an anthological television series were limited. With that said, FX's new series is a spectacular surprise. Opening up with the equivalent of a cinematic presentation, its pilot “The Crocodile’s Dilemma” immediately succeeded in enthralling with a gripping premiere.

The directing, writing and acting performances were all supremely top notch. While there are tones of similarity to the film narrative, the characters in this TV version, pop in a naturalistic fashion that is superlatively engrossing. They are sympathetic, terrible and sinisterly understandable.

As a crime drama it barrels forward with each unsuspecting step having been imbued with danger and ruthless foreboding. The violence is abrupt, shocking and graphic without seeming gratuitous. The grim comedy effectively springs from awkward moments of character interaction, all under the cloak of a dark subtext.

As in the original film, small town Minnesota is a character in its own right with its glistening snowy backdrop and the homespun manner of most of its denizens serving as an ideal veneer for darkness to reign.

Billy Bob Thornton shines in his best role in years. As the gruff hitman with no definitive moral compass, Thornton effortlessly brings his charisma and authentic, walk-of-life ingenuity to his characterization of Lorne Malvo. As the show’s misguided everyman, British actor Martin Freeman is the perfect counterpart to the role William H. Macy played in the movie version.

Macy's character was far less likable. Freeman’s Lester is downtrodden, henpecked and instantaneously motivated to do something about it. He accomplishes all of this, without ever coming across as pitifully desperate.

Freeman brings sincere warmth to the role, playing brilliantly off of Thornton. In Fargo’s tricky underworld of dodgy heroes and fascinatingly mangled circumstances, the show is an intriguingly complicated morality tale that stuns. Only when you see a show get so much right, do you realize how truly rare it is. 

Episodes Aired: 2

See It, or Free It: See It, high-style theatrics are balanced out with a punch of subdued histrionics. In the opening half of its pilot, the show successfully sold two major plot points. The first entailed setting up the crucial groundwork of empathy for the character of Lester, a victim of lifelong bullying both as a child at the hands of the town madman and as an adult within his marriage.

As the show acquired sympathy for him, it allowed viewers to open up to his (for lack of a better term) guardian “angel”, Lorne, as the only character capable of helping him and eager that he would do just that.

Read a Complete Review of Fargo's First Season by clicking here